Thursday, 6 November 2014


The Cold End originally wrote this article in June 2011 about which Step 3 division (Step 2 prior to the creation of the Conference North and South divisions) league is the strongest. It analysed The Isthmian League Premier Division, The Southern League Premier Division and Northern Premier League Premier Division with details of the teams who were promoted and their subsequent performance. It all starts at the 1986/87 season when automatic promotion to the Football League from the Conference was introduced. 

SEASON   NPL                  ISTHMIAN             SOUTHERN 
1986-87  Macclesfield Town    Wycombe Wanderers    Fisher Athletic   
1987-88  Chorley              Yeovil Town          Aylesbury United 
1988–89  Barrow               Leytonstone/Ilford*  Merthyr Tydfil 
1989–90  Colne Dynamoes*      Sutton United        Dover Athletic 
1990–91  Witton Albion        Redbridge Forest     Farnborough Town 
1991–92  Stalybridge Celtic   Woking               Bromsgrove Rovers 
1992–93  Southport            Chesham              Dover Athletic 
1993–94  Marine*              Stevenage Borough    Farnborough Town 
1994–95  Marine*              Enfield FC*          Hednesford Town 
1995–96  Bamber Bridge*       Hayes                Rushden and Diamonds 
1996–97  Leek Town            Yeovil Town          Gresley Rovers* 
1997–98  Barrow               Kingstonian          Forest Green Rovers 
1998–99  Altrincham           Sutton United        Nuneaton Borough 
1999-00  Leigh RMI            Dag and Red          Boston United 
2000–01  Stalybridge Celtic   Farnborough Town     Margate 
2001–02  Burton Albion        Gravesend and N      Kettering Town 
2002–03  Accrington Stanley   Aldershot Town       Tamworth 
2003–04  Hucknall Town*       Canvey Island        Crawley Town 
------------  Creation of Conference South and North Divisions ------------ 
2004–05  Hyde United          Yeading              Histon  
2005–06  Blyth Spartans       Braintree Town       Salisbury City 
2006–07  Burscough            Hampton and Rich     Bath City 
2007–08  Fleetwood Town       Chelmsford City      Kings Lynn 
2008–09  Eastwood Town        Dover Athletic       Corby Town 
2009–10  Guiseley             Dartford             Farnborough
2010–11  FC Halifax Town      Sutton United        Truro City 
2011-12  Chester              Billericay Town      Brackley Town 
2012-13  North Ferriby Utd    Whitehawk            Leamington 
2013-14  Chorley              Wealdstone           Hemel Hempstead
2004-05  Workington           Eastleigh            Hednesford Town
2005-06  Farsley Celtic       Fisher Athletic      Bedford Town 
2006-07  AFC Telford United   Bromley              Maidenhead United 
2007-08  Gateshead            AFC Wimbledon        Team Bath
2008-09  Ilkeston Town        Staines Town         Gloucester City   
2009-10  Boston United        Boreham Wood         Nuneaton Town 
2010-11  Colwyn Bay           Tonbridge Angels     Salisbury City 
2011-12  Bradford PA          AFC Hornchurch       Oxford City 
2012-13  Hednesford Town      Concord Rangers      Gosport Borough 
2013-14  AFC Fylde            Lowestoft Town       St Albans City 

red denotes went on to become a football league club
pink denotes subsequently promoted to Conference Premier after 04/05 
* denotes not promoted 
1988/89 - Farnborough Town promoted in place of Leytonstone/Ilford  
1989/90 - Gateshead promoted in place of Colne Dynamoes
1993/94 - No club promoted in place of Marine 
1994/95 - Morecambe promoted in place of Marine
          Slough Town promoted in place of Enfield
1995/96 - No club promoted in place of Bamber Bridge
1996/97 - Cheltenham Town promoted in place of Gresley Rovers 
2003/04 - No team promoted in place of Hucknall Town

Number of clubs who went into the football league since 1986/87

As you can see since the creation of the Conference South and North divisions which changed the leagues from step 2 to step 3 on the non-league ladder only AFC Wimbledon and Fleetwood Town have moved up to the football league. Gateshead went very close last season losing the Conference play-off final and are in second place this campaign.

Since the creation of the new Step two (Conference North and South) a total of sixteen promoted clubs have moved up to the Conference Premier from the three leagues in question. 

Fleetwood Town are the highest placed club presently in tenth place of League One. The only other clubs at this level are Yeovil Town (who spent last season in The Championship) and Crawley Town. The Glovers are down in 23rd place and will need to start picking up points to prevent two relegations in as many seasons. Crawley Town are in fifteenth place but only five points above Yeovil so it's a very close division. Two or three wins in a row could make all the difference.

Burton Albion, Morecambe, Cheltenham Town, Accrington Stanley, Dagenham & Redbridge, Wycombe Wanderers, Stevenage FC and AFC Wimbledon are all in League Two.

Macclesfield Town and Aldershot Town were relegated in 2012 and 2013 resepectively. They now play in the Conference Premier. Boston United are currently in the Conference North after relegation from the football league in 2007 with AFC Rushden and Diamonds formed after the demise of Rushden and Diamonds top of the United Counties League Premier Division.

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